Monday, February 18, 2008

3 months and 23 days. (but who's counting?)

I always said I would never set up a blog... but as I've learned many times over the last 5 years, never say never! Thanks Martin for helping me set it up. In less than 4 months, I am privileged to begin a new journey. I have been accepted by the Peace Corps and will be moving to Lesotho, Africa in June, 2008. I began the application process January 2006, and was officially accepted in November 2007 and invited to serve in Kenya. But because of the post election violence, the Kenyan team was cancelled, and I was reissued an invitation to serve in Lesotho. (pronounced, Li-sue-too) My job title will be to serve as a Community Health and Economic Advisor. (CHED advisor) While I don't know a whole lot of what that entails, here's what my Peace Corps invite said:

"CHED Volunteers work in a variety of sectors including HIV/AIDS, small business development, agriculture and agriculture business, and youth. Each Volunteer site will focus on one or more of these sectors dependent upon the best opportunities for work at that site. Your primary duties will depend upon your particular site placement."

Yeah I know, that's probably could mean I'll be doing.... who knows. That statement encompasses alot. But I don't really have to know right now. I just want to help.

History of the Program:
"Peace Corps was invited to work in Lesotho in 1967. The Peace Corps program in Lesotho has been maintained over the years at a relatively constant number of between 90-100 Volunteers, except for a brief time following the post-election civil unrest in 1998. Education, agriculture, and health have been the principle program sectors for Peace Corps activity. The focus in placement of Volunteers has been on rural development, which mirrors the country's 85% rural population demography. However, with rapid migration of those seeking economic opportunity, Peace Corps also works with peri-urban populations in a number of districts... "

"The U.S. State Department estimates the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Lesotho to be about 23.2%, one of the highest rates in the world. The United Nations estimates that this rate will rise to 36% within the next 15 years, resulting in a sharp drop in life expectancy." The unemployment rate is at 45% and 49% of the people live below the poverty line. So whether it's working with education, resources.... there's a lot to do.

A little bit about Lesotho. Lesotho is referred to as "The Switzerland of Africa." Lisotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) in elevation. Its lowest point is 1,400 metres (4,593 ft), and over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) Lesotho has the highest low point of any country in the world (so they say) Lesotho weather does not fit my preconceived notions of climate in Africa. While Lesotho is just south of the equator, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. The rainy season is during the summer. Mesuru, the capital and surrounding lowlands will be in the 90's in the summer. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to 19 degrees F, and the highlands to 0 degrees F. It does snow in the deserts and valleys between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

Ive always wanted to live in the snow. I think it is very funny that the first time I will, I will have no electricity and an outdoor pit latrine. Im so excited!!! (I think Im going to have to start limiting my water intake in the winter)

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy, with the King being largely a ceremonial figurehead. I'm not sure how that all works out, but I'm looking forward to finding out. Lesotho's population is about 2.3 million, with roughly 80% of the people living in rural areas. The people in Lesotho are ethnically part of the Basotho, a Bantu speaking people. I will be learning a language called Sesotho, which among other things, utilizes some clicking sounds. One friend has remarked that I already at times click when I talk, so I will be ahead of the game.

During training I will live with a host Basotho family. I don't know exactly what type of housing I will have, but many PCV's in Lesotho live in huts like the one pictured below. They are called Rondavels

PC furnishes each house with a bed, table and chairs, a two burner gas stove, food cabinet and small gas heater. I will not have electricity or indoor plumbing. Volunteers take bucket baths and use a latrine. Likely, the house will be located in a village within a family compound to help minimize security risks. PC does require that volunteers have bars on the windows and door to lock, so that they are secure. Some volunteers also live and work with missionaries.
This is a gorge in Lesotho. Pretty beautiful, eh?

That's it for now. I'll post a new blog in a few months when it's about time to go. This is a new beginning for me, and I literally would not be going if it were not for the patience, love and support of many people who have walked with me on an incredible journey of transformation over the last 5 years. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Peace be with you!